Local Doctor Studies Mental Health and Digestive Bacteria

A Boston psychiatrist finds a connection between gut bacteria and mental disorders.


Stomach image via shutterstock

ABC News featured Waltham psychiatrist Dr. James Greenblatt last week and his studies about the correlation between bacteria in the digestive tract and mental health disorders like OCD and ADHD.

Dr. Greenblatt’s work with teenage and pre-teen patients suffering from mental health disorders has supported recent findings by the The Great Plains Laboratory that the bacteria present in the human digestive tract has an effect on mental health.

When presented with patients that suffered from both mental health issues like ADHD and OCD, as well as intestinal problems, Dr. Greenblatt decided to check for an imbalance in HPHPA levels in the patients’ intestines. Urine samples revealed that all three patients cited by name in the ABC News report had an imbalance of this kind of bacteria. Dr. Greenblatt corrected these imbalances by providing his patients with a series of probiotics, and then antibiotics, and his patients’ intestinal and mental symptoms disappeared.

Researchers like Greenblatt — who founded Comprehensive Psychiatric Resources Inc. in Waltham — are looking into the possible implications of these new findings. Greenblatt doesn’t practice alternative medicine (in fact, he’s trained first and foremost as a psychopharmacologist) but he actively supports looking for this kind of bacteria imbalance first in all psychiatric patients through a simple urine test.

In the ABC News report, Dr. Greenblatt said:

“Eight out of ten people are fine, but in the two patients where [HPHPA levels] are elevated, it can have profound effects on the nervous system.”

While bacteria imbalances are not the cure to all mental health issues, studies have suggested that it may be a step forward in treating certain mental health issues without potentially harmful medications.

Dr. Greenblatt’s three cited teenage and preteen patients have led happy and healthy lives following treatment with probiotics and Dr. Greenblatt is hopeful for the future of integrated medicine to help in this field.

In the ABC News report, he said:

“I don’t know why this test isn’t done on every psychiatric patient. I question that every day.”